Endowment Promises a Sustainable Future for The Arc

Published: May 26, 2015 | By: Greater Cedar Rapids Community Foundation | Category:

Like many people, Delaine Petersen first got involved with The Arc of East Central Iowa because she needed them. As the mother of two children with disabilities, Delaine depended on The Arc’s knowledge and programs, especially in the early years. Today, as the East Central Iowa Chapter’s Executive Director, Delaine is committed to ensuring that The Arc remains an accessible resource for those who need it.

More than two decades after Delaine first got involved as a volunteer, The Arc continues the work of integrating people with disabilities into our community through their visibility efforts and skills-based programming. As clients will tell you, these programs don’t simply enhance lives – they are essential.

Emmett Scherrman, the father of an Arc client who became disabled later in life, says that the knowledge and assistance of staff has been invaluable. “They walked us through the brain injury waiver and what could be obtained with that, the respite care and what they could offer. They gave us information about a Special Needs Trust and looked at any way we could help our daughter. It was a very good impression right off the start because of their willingness to help and their knowledge of this area that was so new to us.”

While their services are always in high demand, funding can be more fickle. During the recent recession, funding changes at the state level dramatically impacted The Arc’s revenue stream. The organization had always prided itself in avoiding deficits, but they quickly recognized that financial vulnerability could greatly impact their clients.

In response, The Arc began discussions about building their endowment. Such a resource would create the kind of cushion that the organization would need to be more insulated from the ebbs and flows of state funding. But successfully raising the funds seemed like an insurmountable challenge.  As past Board President Iris Muchmore recalls, “We were told that endowment funds are hard to raise.”

The Arc applied for and received an Endowment Challenge Grant from the Greater Cedar Rapids Community Foundation, which allowed funds to be matched up to $25,000. Iris believes that this was a game-changer for The Arc. “We could tell people, that if you’re able to give three thousand dollars, we will have a match of one thousand dollars from the Community Foundation. And people really responded to that.”

Because backers of The Arc’s endowment challenge were making their gifts through the Community Foundation, they also received a 25% tax credit on their gift through the Endow Iowa program. While these benefits were certainly not what motivated their supporters to give, The Arc was happy to offer the extra incentive.

They were nervous to begin making those initial asks, but generally found that people were receptive. “What has been astounding to me,” Delaine says, “is generally how wonderful people are in the community. That if you have a strong story, with real goals, and defined outcomes, people are willing to invest in it.”

To date, The Arc has fully utilized their $25,000 of matching funds, and they expect to meet their goal.

By successfully completing the Endowment Challenge, The Arc has ensured that their services will continue to be available to the community for years to come. “We can look at a family with a brand new baby and say, you’re just starting your journey and if you need us in 15 or 30 years, we’ve built a resource so that we can be here to stand beside you and help you.”

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